There’s a mirror at the beginning of the hall.
Sally hates it.
Her bedroom is directly in front of it, so it’s the first thing she sees when she opens her door. The light hits it so that it mesmerizes her eyes; she sees flickers of things that should not be there. She mentioned it to her mother once about the images of dancing naked men with hearts thrumming in their chest, bloody but beating and got a dirty look in reply. She told her father about the moving shadow that seemed to laugh in the mirror’s reflection at night and was told to be quiet.
Talk no more of those silly fantasies.
Speak no more nasty lies.
Sally hates her parents.
The mirror came with the house, the creaky bleak house that seemed to breathe a sigh of relief every time she stepped in it. The house was a gift from Sally’s parents, the ones that died a real long time ago; they died before she could form memories of them. It was unfair really but Sally still cries for them so she must have loved them. They had only just moved into the house, her original parents’ will had stipulated it.
‘When she turns sixteen, the house can be lived in.’
Sally’s new parents didn’t understand why but with no key, there was no way to get in. So the old house in some no named town stayed alone and deserted until Sally became sixteen. The moment she did, she received the key in a package.
And here they were.
A large house with twice as many rooms as people.
Sally lies on her bed and glances at the ceiling of her room, the skylight showing low hanging grey clouds that reminded her of moving pictures. Sally sighs and closes her eyes, ignoring the chattering wind that ran through her room even though the windows and doors were shut. She ignores the scratching sounds of nails against the walls. She ignores the quiet weeping beneath the hardwood floors. She ignores it all until she feels the touch of dry fingers on her cheek, she jumps up in surprise.
Her door is open and she can see the mirror at the end of the hall. There is a person there, a man. She can’t see his face but she can tell he is tall and white. He waves at her.
Sally swallows and gets up, she trembles for the first time since living in the house. She does not look away from the strange man in that mirror; she clutches the door’s handle and shuts it slowly. She locks the door though she knows it makes no difference.
Sally hates that fucking mirror.
The day is cloudy and grey, the perfect day for Sally to meet Molly outside.
“I got you some bones.” Molly says handing her the bleached white tarsus and femur of some unknown dog.
If it was possible Sally would marry Molly.
They are both stooping down at the back of her dark house, making markings in the dirt with their fingers. Molly is a quite pale girl who despises the sun but tolerates it because it bleaches her bones. She is dressed in bright colours, a bright pink skirt with a plain teal blouse and red umbrella which she holds over her head. Her ears are pointed at the tip with its bottom lobe pierced three times.
Sally likes Molly.
“I saw a man in my mirror.” Sally tells her, placing the femur on top of the tarsus. It slants on it, the other end of the femur in the soft dirt. Molly meets her gaze and touches her hand.
“It must have been frightening.” she says, Molly takes a knife and cut her own finger. “Are you sure you’re safe?” Drips of blood fall on the femur and trails down the bone’s length.
Molly wants to take Sally away, but Sally won’t leave. To go with Molly would be to leave her home, the needy house that seems to follow her whenever she leaves. Whether in her mind or in the corner of her eyes. But this house is hers, a gift from her parents that she will keep.
“It was scary.” she states for she never lies to Molly. (Bad things happen when you lie to Molly) “But I don’t think he will hurt me.”
“If he does,” Molly replies, watching the blood spiral to the ground creating patterns of abstract desires, “I will kill him myself.” she smiles, the hint of sharp teeth can be seen beneath her curved lips . Sally smiles back. One day, Sally thinks, if Molly can bear to leave her damp dark forest, Sally will have Molly live with her if she agrees.
If not, Molly can just visit and will always have a room of her choosing that is hers and hers alone.
Sally hears the sound of a car parking in the driveway. Molly stands up, umbrella still in hand as the sound of the car door slams shut. Sally can hear the fury in her mother’s steps, she glances to see an angry white woman storming towards them. She snatches the bones up and hides them behind her and Molly kicks the blood and dirt.
“Sally!” she starts but stops when she sees Molly behind her. The shift is instant, what was once fury is now patient annoyance. “Sally,” he mother repeats, her tone soft, “Why did you skip school today? I got a call from the principal while I was at work”
Sally likes school.
But she likes Molly better.
“I wanted to see Molly.” she answers.
Her mother blinks, “Oh?” she looks at Molly, “Do your parents know you’re not at school, young lady?”
Molly tilts her head, “My parents are dead.” she says plainly.
Sally’s mother is taken back but makes a sympathetic sound. Molly scratches her right thumb with the nail of her right index finger, a habit she does when she wants to laugh but can’t. Sally can understand, after all Molly had never even met her parents. Her grandmother had killed them but they were people who did really bad things so it was fine.
“I’m serious, Richard.” her mother flings her hands in frustration, “she cannot continue to do this. Do you know how embarrassed I was to have them call me?”
Sally watches them with interest. Her father sighs and rubs his temple; he is an Asian man with strong features, a counterpart to her mother’s softness. Her mother is an accountant and her father is a lawyer, Sally thinks they think that this is what the perfect couple is supposed to look like. Two career oriented people with the perfect marriage taking in the poor orphan child of their dearly departed friends. Even going so far as to move to the original home town where the deceased came from.
Sally thinks they should aim higher.
She sips her soup as they continue to talk over her. The wind is howling outside and Sally can hear the steps creaking even though the people that dwell in the house are in the same room. She does not point it out, but she does drop her spoon in the porcelain bowl earning both their attention.
“Sally.” her father warns, “can’t you see your mother and I are having a discussion?”
In front of her.
She shakes her head, “Can I be excused?” she asks softly. They glance at each other and frown but her father speaks first.
“Very well, but we will have a talk.”
Her mother nods, “I’m very disappointed in you today.”
She does not reply. She just leaves.
She walks up the steps to go to the second floor of her house, the stairs do not creak. (They never creak when she and her parents walk up them) She walks past the mirror but does not look at it. A shiver crawls up her spine but she does not stop. She makes her way to the end of the hall, to her door, her fingers clasp the knob.
She hears a deep chuckle.
She knows what lies behind her but she looks.
There is no doubt what is behind her but she looks.
She looks to see the man from the mirror, standing in front of the mirror at the beginning of the hall. He is tall like she assumed and dressed like a Victorian gentleman about to leave for the evening. He waves at her. Sally does not cry at the sight. She swallows and opens her door.
She wants to look away, to turn and slam that door behind her but she fears what will happen if she does. So she walks into the open door, eyes never leaving his figure, eyes never leaving the shadow that covered his eyes and showed only his smile. She watched him come closer and closer, not stepping or slow gliding rather here one point and there the next.
She shuts the door just in time to see the shadow gone and his red eyes before it seals itself in its frame.
She breathes heavy, her heart thumping in her chest. She sits on the floor, next to her bed, the sound of the scratching nails, whispering wind and weeping floors comforts her. With time, her heart calms itself and her breathing evens out. She replays the event and finds her cheeks are flushed. “Frightening,” she realizes, “But handsome.”
The sudden knocking on the door makes her jump.
“Sally?” her father’s voice echoes through the door. Sally does not move. “Can I come in?”
Sally does not know what stands behind that door. So she states a fact,
“The door is not locked”
Her father opens it and sees her on the floor. He opens his mouth but nothing comes out. He shakes his head and sits on the bed, leaving her on the floor. She gets up, the mirror showing their reflection, her father’s straight back and her thick curls greet her. She blinks and nothing changes.
She closes the door.
Sally stares at the ceiling, lying on her bed, her homework is finished but she can not leave the house. She is grounded until the month is over and forbidden to see Molly. Sally closes her eyes and there is a knock on the door. There were no sounds of the car parking in the driveway, no sound of doors opening and closing. Just a simple, single knock and a reminder.
Sally is home alone.
“I know you’re in there.” a voice says, deep and soft. So similar to the chuckle a few nights ago, “Won’t you let me in?”
Sally opens her eyes,
“Aren’t you lonely?” he says, “Won’t you let me in?”
She sits up and leans against the headrest, her eyes on the door. She didn’t think it was possible but she hates the strange man more than the fucking mirror he came from.
The strange man from the mirror visits her every night now.
Sometimes he asks her to let him in. Sometimes he scratches at the door with nails long and sharp. Sometimes he just chatters in the wind or weep mockingly underneath her floors. But most times, he just talks.
He talks in a voice that sends shivers down her spine and makes her skin prickles.
He talks about her parents, about the town, about the creatures that skulk in the forest behind the very home she lives in.
He mentions the dark things that dwell in the forest, cruel and strong. He mentions how they devour any human that go too deep in their woods. He mentions how they all bow down to the ruler of the forest, an even more powerful fae, and her granddaughter, a quiet pale girl with a liking for umbrellas.
He tells her about the soldier who thinks about putting a bullet in his head every night, missing the violence of war. He tells her about the principal who tries her hardest not to give into her urge to kill despite loving her job. He tells her about a daughter’s covetousness of her father’s power and the cruelty she inflicted to retrieve it. He tells her about the disowned son dying for his next fix and the jewellery he knows his parents have hidden somewhere in their house.
He whispers how precious she is, how sweet she is. He whispers how she is such a good child to the parents she ‘hates’. He whispers how different she is from her own true parents and how surprised they would be if they could see her now.
His words are always slick and smooth but no matter how he tries.
Sally never lets him in.
Molly is wearing a red dress and her umbrella is bright pink. They sit on the grass behind her house; the day is cool and grey. “I brought you these” Molly tells her, handing her ten small teeth, sharp and thick. Sally smiles and puts them in her pocket. She gives Molly four locks of her hair tied, each tied with a bright pink ribbon.
“I missed you too.”
They stare at the clouds.
“My parents were good parents.” Sally states, Molly hums in reply. “But they were bad people.” Molly freezes,
Sally thinks about the mirror, about the man and his whispers at night.
Sally is turning seventeen soon.
And that fact seems to be a big deal in the town.
“We’re having a party,” her mother declares after the eighth person stops and asks what they plan to do. Sally studies the hunk of pork loin, heavy and fresh in the open fridge.
“Can we get this?” she asks, pointing at it.
“Of course, sure,” her mother answers, “What do you want at your party?”
Sally takes up the meat, soft and tender, and places it in the trolley. She will cook it tonight, she thinks. “Anything is fine.”
“You can invite the kids at your school.” her mother suggests.
Sally stops listening.
That same night Sally eats the loin in her room, bloody and raw.
There is a knock.
“Aren’t you lonely?” he asks, nails clawing slowly on the door. She licks the blood off her fingers. “Won’t you let me in?”
Sally is lonely. She stares at her blood stain fingers, she glances at the door. She could let him in, she thinks, then she wouldn’t be lonely anymore. Sally clenches her fingers.
She doesn’t though.
“You’re going to be an adult soon.” Molly greets her. Sally shrugs and stands beside her.
Molly is wearing a bright teal dress with white tights and a blue umbrella. “You should celebrate with a party.” she declares. They walk through the forest, the earth soft and cool under Sally’s bare feet. “I was going to have one for you.”
Sally smiles, “You were?”
“I was going to invite everyone here.” Molly sighs, “My grandmother was going to invite the stars to light the forest for us and I was going to cook.”
Sally hugs Molly and kisses her on the cheek. “You are good to me,” she says, “Please come to my party.”
“Are you sure?”
Sally nods, “It’s a costume party.” she reminds her, “You can invite everyone in the forest. As long as no one gets eaten, it should be fine.”
“Oooh, I never thought of that.”
Sally likes parties.
She sits next to Molly on a table at the back of the house, most people are on the dance floor, moving in beat to the music. She is wearing a red hooded cape with white poofy dress. Her feet are bare and dirty and there is a wooden basket beside her filled with homemade alcohol. Molly is wearing a dark brown dress made of leaves and her hair is filled with flowers.
No umbrella accompanies her tonight.
She watches as her schoolmates laugh and drink, music fast pacing but pulsing strong. She sips the flask and passes it to Molly who takes a swig and exhales.
She grins at Sally, small teeth sharp and thick.
The house is filled with people, people who didn’t know Sally as anything else other than that really quite girl until she announced she was having a birthday party and they were invited. Now everyone knew that really quiet girl’s parents were very well off.
So of course they came.
“This is Greg.” Molly says, she gestures at a older man with a dash of grey at his temple and three pointy horns sticking out of his forehead. “He is my grandmother’s third hand.” He smiles, tail moving smoothly behind him. Hs clothes are simple, a black shirt and pale blue jeans.
“A blessing on your home.” he says. Sally nods,
“And twice more upon your own.” she replies.
It continues on like this for the most of the night. Humanoids of various shapes and sizes, coming to her one by one, to introduce themselves and offer their blessings.
They were very polite for unspoken horrors.
A fae stands before her; he looks so out of place to Sally. He does not look like the type to like parties, Sally thinks. “This is Mycroft.” Molly says, “He is my grandmother’s second hand.”
“A blessing upon your house.” he says with a small bow. He wears a three piece suit though his feet are just as bare as hers. The suit is rather disheveled though. His hair is slick back showing his ears pointy and pierced; his eyes are a bright red and his teeth large and sharp.
“And twice more upon yours” she answers.
He turns to Molly, “I apologize for my tardiness.” he sighs, “I’ve been trying to find my brother, he’s disappeared again.”
“It’s fine,” she waves him off, taking another drink. Sally snatches it from her and takes a large swig from it. “Go have fun. Greg is in the house somewhere.” He makes a face; it is a soft vulnerable face. The face Sally’s mother sometimes makes when she looks at Sally’s father. He nods and walks off.
“Mated?” Sally questions, putting the flask to her lips again.
“If you’ve seen them fawn over each other, you’d be tempted to eat them both.”
“So you’re really gonna do it, huh?”
Molly hums and drains the flask. Sally glances at the basket of home-made alcohol. “Your grandmother is frightening by the way.” she mentions, remembering the towering woman who was the first to greet her. Sally shivers at the memory, the power radiating off the woman dressed in furs with wild loose hair. Her eyes were a glowing silver and she had three small circles tattooed down her cheeks. If power had a mortal form if would be Molly’s grandmother.
“I want to be like her when I get older.” Molly slurs, Sally makes a noise of agreement.
They leave just before the rays of dawn touches the earth.
Molly sleeps, cradled in her grandmother’s arms, “I thank you for your hospitality” the elder says. Wobbly but sober (enough), Sally smiles and bows.
“No, I should thank you for gracing my party with your presence, your excellence.”
“You will visit soon?”
“With no doubt.”
The woman smiles, with Mycroft and Greg by her side, she enters the forest. The creatures of the forest follow behind her, laughing and moaning, waving at Sally who grins back.
She walks back to the house, careful not to trip over empty bottles and unconscious drunks.
Sally yawns and opens her door.
She puts the basket on the ground, unzips the dress and drops it. The cape follows suit. She steps over the fallen clothes and drops into her bed. She blinks out her window, the sun’s ray peaking out on her. She closes her eyes, the faint feeling of dry fingers touching her cheek.
When Sally wakes up, the sun is gone and there is only darkness. Her head feels like someone is using a crowbar to hit inside the walls of her skull. She switches the lamp on and finds water and some painkillers on the night stand.
Sally is very grateful to her parents.
She pops the pills in and drinks the water.
There is a knock on the door. Sally sits up and stares at the door.
“Won’t you let me in?” he asks, there is no sound of sharp nails on the wood, no chatter in the wind and no weeping under her floors. Just silence and his voice. Sally goes to the door.
She opens it.
The strange man from the mirror is standing before her. He stares at her, red eyes unblinking and unnerving. Sally is shaking but she speaks,
“You may come in.”
Sally does not expect it.
She had imagined it.
But what she imagined was not this.
This is different.
He is insatiable.
But then again, so is she.
When Sally wakes up, there are bite marks all over her body and a sweet ache she pretends is not there. He stands in the corner of the room studying her, impeccable and neat, as if he was not the one who laid with her a few hours ago.
She calls his name, snapping him out of his thoughts.
“You’ve had me.” she states, “Exactly as they promised.”
They being her dead parents.
“Leave my home and go back to the forest where you home lies.”
He frowns, “I was promised a bride.”
“I’m an adult, no longer property of my parent. I choose who I wed,” she counters, “The deal was my purity which I gave. Now leave.”
“Become my bride.” he says, “I can’t go back unmated. I will never hear the end of it.”
“I will not leave my home.”
“Then this will be my home as well.”
Molly is wearing a bright green shirt with a long black skirt. She glances at him, an amused smile on her face. “So this is where you’ve been hiding?” she pricks her fingers and a drip of blood hits the skull. “Mycroft was worried about you.”
The male snorted, “He has Greg so it was safe to assume he would be fine.”
Molly laughs, “Mate envy.” she whispers to Sally, “ pretty common among unmated siblings.” Sally shrugs, she licks her thumb and wipes it on the nose of the skull. The blood merges with the saliva and starts to move.
“I’ll have you know, I am indeed mated.”
“You actually agreed?”
“He marries into my family” Sally answers, she watches the pattern of admiration the liquid makes on the crown of the skull. It is quite pretty.
“Oh, but you actually agreed to marry him? When you no longer had to?”
She glances at him then back at the skull. She thinks of the creaky house and her parents.Unlike Molly, it took time but Sally loves them both.
“I don’t mind.” she answers.
She thinks she can grow to love him too.